Kalle Rovanperä leads the Rally de Portugal for TOYOTA GAZOO Racing World Rally Team after an opening day of highs and lows on demanding gravel roads.
As the leading contenders in a super-close drivers’ championship after four rounds, both Elfyn Evans and Rovanperä faced tough conditions running at the front of the road order on the loose gravel stages. After Thursday night’s ceremonial start in the historic city of Coimbra, there were a total of eight tests to be tackled in the surrounding area without returning north to Porto for mid-day service.
On an event he won last year, Rovanperä made a positive start, winning the third stage of the day to end the morning loop in second overall and just three seconds from the lead. He took the lead with a stage win in SS5, took another fastest time in SS6 and came within 0.4 seconds of a hat-trick in SS7, where he nonetheless increased his advantage into double figures. After the new super special stage at Figueira da Foz that rounded out the day, Rovanperä’s lead is 10.8s.
Stepping into the team’s main three-car line-up for the second time this season, Takamoto Katsuta made an encouraging start to the day and was level with Rovanperä for fourth position after two stages. He was unfortunately unable to start SS3 following an issue related to the alternator, which has been resolved so that he can restart tomorrow.
For Evans it was a difficult day opening the road, creating cleaner lines for his rivals to follow. A strong time in SS3 meant he ended the morning in fifth overall and within 20s of the lead, but the afternoon loop would prove to be tougher. He would go off the road in SS7; both Evans and co-driver Scott Martin were thankfully OK. The team will inspect the damage to the car when it is recovered to the service park this evening.
Jari-Matti Latvala (Team Principal)
“It has obviously been a day of mixed feelings for us. The big positive has been Kalle’s performance. I could sense that his motivation is really high to get a victory. He was maybe not completely happy to begin with this morning, but he was able to tweak the car setup, find the confidence and then he was flying for the rest of the day. For Elfyn we knew it would be a tough job today being the first car on the road. He was still in quite a good position after the morning, but this afternoon it was more difficult with rougher and rutted roads and unfortunately he had quite a big accident in the penultimate stage. The most important thing is that he and Scott are OK. It was also disappointing that Takamoto had to stop this morning, as he had started very well. But we need to keep positive and look forward to tomorrow, where the stages will not be so rough but where you still need to be able to manage the tyres.”
Kalle Rovanperä (Driver car 69)
“It has been a really good day for us. This morning was not perfect, but we changed a few things on the car to give ourselves a bit more precision on the fast roads, and after this the feeling got better and the afternoon went well. I think the stages were even rougher than expected; it has clearly been very dry here in the lead up to the rally so there were a lot of stones and rough places. But we managed it quite well, I think we did a clever drive. It’s nice to be leading after starting second on the road today and to be in the fight for the win. Tomorrow our starting place should be much better and hopefully we can keep it up.”
Takamoto Katsuta (Driver car 18)
“This morning the car felt good and I was enjoying the driving. We had to manage an issue from the end of the first stage but still the times were good even though I wasn’t pushing at all, as I was feeling very happy with the setup and the balance. We tried to continue as best as we could but going to the third stage, everything shut down and we could not restart again, so we had to end our day there. This was a pity but we still have the chance to drive the remaining two days on these great stages. It will be difficult starting first on the road tomorrow but we will try to enjoy it and learn something for the future.”
End of day one (Friday):
1 Kalle Rovanperä/Jonne Halttunen (Toyota GR YARIS Rally1 HYBRID) 1h22m27.7s
2 Dani Sordo/Cándido Carrera (Hyundai i20 N Rally1 HYBRID) +10.8s
3 Thierry Neuville/Martijn Wydaeghe (Hyundai i20 N Rally1 HYBRID) +26.0s
4 Pierre-Louis Loubet/Nicolas Gilsoul (Ford Puma Rally1 HYBRID) +26.9s
5 Esapekka Lappi/Janne Ferm (Hyundai i20 N Rally1 HYBRID) +27.3s
6 Ott Tänak/Martin Järveoja (Ford Puma Rally1 HYBRID) +1m04.7s
7 Oliver Solberg/Elliott Edmondson (Škoda Fabia RS Rally2) +3m48.2s
8 Gus Greensmith/Jonas Andersson (Škoda Fabia RS Rally2) +4m38.4s
9 Yohan Rossel/Arnaud Dunand (Citroën C3 Rally2) +4m48.4s
10 Andreas Mikkelsen/Torstein Eriksen (Škoda Fabia RS Rally2) +5m29.3s
TBC Elfyn Evans/Scott Martin (Toyota GR YARIS Rally1 HYBRID)
TBC Takamoto Katsuta/Aaron Johnston (Toyota GR YARIS Rally1 HYBRID)
(Results as of 19:30 on Friday, for the latest results please visit www.wrc.com)
Saturday is the longest day of the rally, featuring 148.68 competitive kilometres: a repeated loop of three stages takes the crews north-east of Porto and into the Cabreira mountains. It includes the longest stage of the season so far, Amarante (37.24 km), while another super special stage at the Lousada rallycross circuit runs in the evening.
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Rd.5 Rally de Portugal
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